Posted in City Center, going to New York to be a writer, New York City, The Women's Project, writing about NYC

"The Architecture of Becoming" — Is It Too Many Chefs?

L-to-R Christopher Livingsont, Vanessa Kai, Jon Norman Schneider and Claudia Acosta. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Sarah Ruhl’s brilliant “Stage Kiss,” the character named He disparages a play that required more than
two collaborators– “Isn’t a bad sign when three people wrote a play? I mean if two people wrote it, it’s
one thing, but three, come on, three?”

So it’s probably not a good sign that there are five named playwrights on “The Architecture of Becoming,” at City Center Stage II through March 23rd. The enterprise, penned by Kara Lee Corthron, Sarah Gancher, Virginia Grise, Dipika Guha and Lauren Yee is represented by Siempre Norteada (Claudia Acosta), a writer who has a commission on the City Center.  By the way, not only are there 5 writers, there are 3 directors for this hour and a half interlude.

L-to-R Christopher Livingston, Danielle Skraastad, Vanessa Kai and Claudia Acosts. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

There are other storytellers enacted in the vignettes that comprise this “play,” including Vanessa Kai’s
Tomomi Nakamura, a 1940 Japanese housewife who wants only to tell her own story. “I only want to play
myself I only want to tell my story. I only want to tell my story. Does that mean I am not an actress?”
Siempre Norteada merely connects the pieces, or does her best to do so.

Vanessa Kai as Tomomi and Danielle Skraastad as Virginia, the fishmonger. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
“The Architecture…” is meant to be a paean to the building, in which the Women’s Project has found its 
home. There are references to the City Center’s rich history. It is also an ode to artists who come to New York to seek inspiration.
The actors, Danielle Skraastad, Jon Norman Schneider, Christopher Livingston, and the aforementioned
Vanessa Kai and Claudia Acosta, all fine, are ill-served by this hodgepodge. 
City Center, the glorious recently restored 90 year old landmark which started life as a Masonic Temple,
and now is home to theater and ballet from around the world, deserves better too.
To find out more about “The Architecture of Becoming,” visit http://wptheater.org/ 

Posted in ambition, George Kelly, going to New York to be a writer, playwright, young man rebelling against his father

Finding his own path, "Philip Goes Forth"

Striking off on one’s on is a privilege and a rebellion in which the young often indulge, heading out to find their own success.

Philip (Bernardo Cubria) and his father, Mr. Eldridge (Cliff Bemis) have a fundamental disagreement as Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) looks on in Geroge Kelly’s “Philip Goes Forth” at the Mint extended through October 27. Photo by Rahav Segev.

“Philip Goes Forth,” at the Mint Theater in an extended run through October 27this about one young man’s contention with his father over his future .

Mrs. Randolph and Philip in the Mint production of “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.

In this classic generational dispute, Philip Eldridge (Bernardo Cubria) is in a fine pique over his father’s (Cliff Bemis) high-handed dismissal of his ambitions. When Philip appeals to his aunt, Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson)  she tells him, “You may be able to do wonders, Philip ,—I know nothing at all about it . And if I did know—that you had it in you to succeed even moderately at it ,…..—I should be the first to encourage you.” She is sympathetic, but worried, “.. I’ve read so much of the disappointments and heartbreak of writers; and I’m sure the majority of them must have ridden away wit h very high hopes.”

Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) pays Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) a visit. Photo by Rahav Segev.

George Kelly’s play gets off to a slow start, but as “Philip Goes Forth,” by the second act, it gains momentum and the power to captivate. Philip’s adventure takes him to New York City, where he feels an endeavor like his to write plays should prosper.

Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) and her daughter, Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) both support Philip’s desires to become a playwright. Cynthia expresses her delight that he is planning to try his hand at writing. Mrs. Oliver says, “Why not?—I mean, after all, it ‘s your life. And if it’s unexpressed, remember there’ll be nobody to blame but yourself.”  And it is with that encouragement that Philip sallies off to Mrs. Ferris’ (Kathryn Kates) boarding house. There his college roommate, Tippy Shronk (Teddy Bergman) further fuels his aspirations. The other housemates gatherred in Mrs. Ferris’ drawing room include Miss Krail (Rachel Moulton) a delightfully absent-minded poetess and the tormented Haines (Brian Keith MacDonald.)

Philip (Bernardo Cubria) shares his dreams with Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) in “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.

Ironically, in New York, Philip finds great success at what you would call a “day job” where he labors in a novelty business. He is on the verge of a promotion when he receives visits from family and friends.

The direction, under Jerry Ruiz, seems a bit uneven, as Philip, Shronk and Mrs. Oliver are given free reign to be over the top, while the rest of the cast seems to take a more naturalistic approach. However, both Bernardo Cubria as Philip and Carole Healey as Mrs. Oliver find their place in our hearts as “Philip Goes Forth” proceeds into the later acts. Rachel Moulton is extremely fetching as the resident versifier, who “stress[es] the necessity of beauty unduly.”  Natalie Kuhn is sweet as Philip’s girlfriend; her enthusiasm for the romance of a writer’s life is comic and touching.

George Kelly, who was wildly popular in the late 1920’s, is seldom staged today.  Go forth, and enjoy this reclaimed little gem from a mostly forgotten master of stagecraft.

Visit http://minttheater.org/currentproduction.php for more information and tickets to the Mint’s production of “Philip Goes Forth.”